CLIMATE WATCH - Al Gore, former US VP, recently held a TED talk in anticipation of COP28, the upcoming Conference of the Parties, aka: UNFCCC or 2023 United Nations Climate Conference, November 30th - December 12th, 2023, to be held at Expo City, Dubai. It increasingly looks to be a freakish show of multi-dimensional illusions and fakery that the world of climate science is falling for. After all, a crowd of 80,000 is expected to gather to resolve the climate crisis hosted by an active climate crisis participant named Abu Dhabi National Oil Company.
It should be noted that COPs have been annual events since 1995 when CO2 emissions were 21 Gt, which is 21 billion metric tons (for perspective purposes, according to NASA, one gigaton equals 10,000 fully loaded US aircraft carriers). The scorecard since then is not at all impressive. Global CO2 emissions have gone up every year without fail following every COP for nearly three decades, currently at 36 Gt. That’s up 70% since COPs started. This is getting to be tiresome. In other words, COPs somehow mysteriously serve to accelerate carbon emissions. Maybe stop COP. After all, these are very expensive affaires that increasingly serve as photo ops for prime ministers and presidents, kinda like the Red Carpet for the Oscars.
Al Gore’s TED speech d/d August 2023: What the Fossil Fuel Industry Doesn’t Want You to Know. FYI- Al gets very heated when discussing the oil industry. FYI2- Al delivers an upbeat ending to his TED speech by explaining how society can get out of the global heat jam, and he highlights good things that are already happening. Good news is found in the final minutes of his 25:44 talk and in his opening remarks.
Before commencing on a tirade about the insanity of holding climate change talks in one of the world’s oil kingdoms with prospects that oil sheiks are going to pull the wool over everybody’s eyes, a synopsis of Al Gore’s encouraging words:
At one point when discussing mitigation efforts, he says: “So, will we succeed?”
Al’s answer: “Amazingly good news… What if we could stop the increase in temperatures?”
Response to his own query: “Yes, we can.”
Accordingly: “If we get to true net zero, astonishingly, global temperatures will stop going up with a lag time of as little as three to five years. They used to think that positive feedback loops would keep that process going. No, it will not! The temperatures will stop going up. The ice will continue melting and some other things will continue, but we can stop the increase of temperatures. Even better, if we stay at true net zero in as little as 30 years, half of all the human caused CO2 will come out of the atmosphere into the upper ocean and the trees and vegetation.” (footnote: Success depends upon several “ifs”.)
Therefore, according to former VP Gore: People should “not be vulnerable to despair” because humans have “a will to act.” Moreover, “the will to act is itself a renewable resource.” Accordingly, as further stated: We have everything we need and proven deployment models to reduce emissions 50% by 2030. It will require (1) more solar and wind (2) more regenerative agriculture (3) more EVs (4) more charging stations (5) more energy storage (6) more green hydrogen (7) and more electrolyzers to produce it.
Renewables already account for 90% of all new electricity generation installed each year, worldwide. In fact, renewable energy ascends nearly vertical on a graph. For example, just seven years ago, there was one Gigafactory. There are now 195 Gigafactories and another 300 in the pipeline. Gigafactories produce batteries for electric vehicles. Indeed, it is true, renewables are a growth industry. Just ask Wall Street, which handsomely profits.
But, according to the International Energy Agency, in the face of all that good news, the rapid growth rate mentioned by Al Gore is lagging the timeline needed to hit net zero emissions by 2050: “To achieve this, annual renewable energy use must increase at an average rate of about 13% during 2023-2030, twice as much as the average over the past 5 years.” (Source: Renewables, International Energy Agency, IEA, July 11, 2023)
Not only is the current scale of renewables off center, too slow, but COP28 is likely to deceive the public about the intentions of the oil industry, which puts a very big question mark on all assumptions of net zero achievement. However, before VP Gore castigates oil magnates, he heaps praise on America’s (Biden’s) Inflation Reduction Act, which he calculates will directly and indirectly be worth up to $1.2 trillion in renewable benefits, and both Australia and Brazil have turned very pro-renewable with more aggressive installations directed at net zero emissions. As noted by Gore, there is plenty of good news, e.g., China reaching its goals ahead of schedule, but here’s the catch: “In spite of this progress, the emissions are still going up and the crisis is still getting worse faster than we are deploying the solutions.” (this is the most direct, honest assessment by VP Gore in his TED speech).
For over 50 years fossil fuels have consistently been >80% of world energy supply. “Global energy demand rose 1% last year and record renewables growth did nothing to shift the dominance of fossil fuels, which still accounted for 82% of supply, according to the industry's Statistical Review of World Energy.” (Source: Renewables Growth Did Not Dent Fossil Fuel Dominance in 2022, Report Says, Reuters, June 26, 2023)
To solve the persistent problem of excessive fossil fuel emissions, Gore suggests looking at the obstacles, which includes unrelenting opposition by the fossil fuel industry. Even though many people think they are onside and trying to help, he begs to differ: “Let me tell you … on every piece of legislation at every level of government, they’re in there with their lobbyists and revolving door colleagues doing everything possible to slow down progress. They have used fraud on a massive scale; they’ve used falsehoods on an industrial scale, and they’ve used their legacy political and economic networks… to capture the policy-making process.” (Al Gore)
Gore also mentions a direct hard-hitting statement by UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres: “The fossil fuel industry is the polluted heart of the climate crisis.”
As stated by Gore, for decades the fossil fuel companies have had the damning evidence of poisonous fossil fuels yet decided to lie to the public to make more money. “It’s as simple as that.” And now they have seized control of the COP process, especially this year’s COP in Dubai. Concern has been building about this for quite some time. Last year in Egypt, the fossil fuel interests had more delegates at COP than the combined delegations of the 10 most affected climate-impacted countries. Which can only be categorized as an upside-down climate conference.
Making matters even more exasperating, this year’s host (Dubai) has appointed the president of COP28 despite blatant conflict of interest. It’s the CEO of Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (DNOC) Dr. Sultan Al Jaber. For reference purposes, DNOC’s emissions are larger than ExxonMobil. How is it possible for climate scientists to attend an event to halt CO2 that’s hosted by the CEO of one of the world’s largest emitters of CO2?
According to former VP Gore: Dhabi National Oil Company “has no credible plan whatsoever to reduce emissions.” In fact, they plan to increase their emissions via increased fossil fuel production by as much as 50% by 2030. This matches the time frame when the world is attempting to reduce emissions by 50% by 2030. It’s a massive clash of interests, as climate scientists from around the world attend COP28 in the backyard of massive CO2 emissions and plans to increase production by 50%.
Paradoxically, Dr. Jaber oversees both. Yes, he’s in charge of reducing emissions as well as increasing emissions. Al Gore’s response to that peculiar setup: “Wait a minute, do you take us as a bunch of fools?” In fact, the fossil fuel industry has captured the COP process and is intentionally slowing it down, period! Gore: “We need to do something about it.”
Last year at COP, the petrostates vetoed any references to a “fossil-fuel phase-down” in COP resolutions. Since that’s reality, then why hold COP in the first instance? Climate scientists shouldn’t be used as pawns to promote oil industry trickery.
Al Gore: “The climate crisis is a fossil fuel crisis.” There’s no other way to look at it.
The newest scam by the fossil fuel industry is a storyline that fossil fuels are not the problem; it’s the emissions that are the problem. Umm- Duh! They recommend capturing the emissions and everything will be hunky dory. For example, Abu Dhabi claims they reduced emissions from oil and gas production from 2005-2014 by 99.2% even as they produced more of both. Climate Trade (which launched the first Carbon API in the world) measures these things: Here’s the truth, “By 2030, Abu Dhabi National Oil Company’s grand plan for Carbon Capture and Sequestration will capture only 1.4% of current emissions.” (TED talk @ 11:46)
Gore’s outburst regarding Abu Dhabi National Oil’s sleight of hand: “Do they think we don’t see what they’re doing… don’t understand what they’re doing?”
Moreover, here in the US, the EPA gave US utilities a regulatory mandate to either stop burning coal or capture the emissions. But capture’s not that simple: According to the EPA’s own description of carbon capture: “It’s technologies that are not economically or technically feasible for widespread use.”
The technology for CCS has been around for 50 years, but the cost has never declined. Whereas, usually as technologies develop and improve over time, costs per unit decrease. According to a study by Oxford University, CCS is what’s classified as a “non-improving technology.” It’s not readily available for “cost-effective practical use.” And now petrostates talk about direct air capture, which, by the way, uses huge amounts of energy. Energy companies claim DAC gives them an excuse to never stop producing oil. More to the point, they’ll never stop producing as long as this fabrication is publicly accepted.
In strong opposition, Gore showed a photo of a DAC unit in Iceland, which will be enhanced enough in 7 years so that each DAC unit will be able to capture 27 seconds worth of annual emissions. (TED talk 15:00) Are you kidding me!!!
On a cost-effective basis, DAC is not credible. Moreover, the biggest obstacle to DAC is physics, CO2 makes up ~0.035% of the air, meaning DACs will vacuum the other 99.96% to get ~0.035% out of the air. (TED talk 16:00) Oh, please! It’s a bad joke and cannot possibly meet the scale required just to keep up with current emissions.
Meanwhile oil companies are using DAC to effectively gaslight the public.
DAC is a sizeable task that’s nearly impossible to fully comprehend and in fact impossible to wrap arms around because it’s the planet that’s at issue; it’s really big! The scale of infrastructure that’s required to make a significant difference is beyond a Marshall Plan prototype, which would be a blip on direct air capture’s radar. According to renowned physicist Klaus Lackner, director of the Center for Negative Carbon Emissions, to stay abreast of current emissions: “If you built a hundred million trailer-size units you could actually keep up with current emissions.” (Source: Elizabeth Kolbert, Can Carbon-Dioxide Removal Save the World? The New Yorker, Nov. 20, 2017) End-to-end 100,000,000 units will circumnavigate the planet 44 times. Oh, sure!
According to The World Benchmark Alliance and the Carbon Disclosure Project: “The oil and gas sector has made almost no progress towards the Paris Agreement goals since 2021… There has been little advance in oil, and alarmingly, even some decline in oil and gas companies’ progress on limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees.”
The host of COP28, Abu Dhabi National Oil Company, is rated as one of the least responsible of all the oil and gas companies. “It no longer voluntarily reports any emissions data… it scores an anemic 3.8 on a 1-to-100 scale for transition plans.”
The global allocation of capital is another major obstacle to overcoming a very sticky climate disaster scenario that’s already unfolding right before our eyes. As it happens, global warming embarrassingly arrived too early to the party. Meanwhile, last year governments around the world subsidized fossil fuel by more than one trillion dollars. And since Paris ’15, the 60 largest global banks have committed $5.5T to fossil fuel investments. Confusingly, 49 of the 60 banks signed net zero pledges… Why?
Al Gore did not mention the grueling fact that the climate system has already gone off the rails way earlier than expected. Realistically, how much time is left?
And when will the Conference of the Parties toss out, or ignore, if that’s possible, special interests, e.g., oil companies lurking behind every curtain, and thereafter base policy decisions upon science, which would be a positive change in COP’s approach to tackling the biggest threat since an asteroid slammed into the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico?
(Robert Hunziker, MA, economic history DePaul University, awarded membership in Pi Gamma Mu International Academic Honor Society in Social Sciences is a freelance writer and environmental journalist who has over 200 published articles appearing in over 50 journals, magazines, and sites worldwide.)